Serge Gellé, Andrianarison Jimmy Laitsara Swim To Save Their Lives

Serge Gellé, Andrianarison Jimmy Laitsara Swim To Save Their Lives

Almost 100% of all attempted channel crossings and marathon swims are willingly and expectedly done by open water swimming.

Not in the case of Madagascar Secretary of State for Police Serge Gellé and Chief Warrant Officer Andrianarison Jimmy Laitsara who willingly did a marathon swim, but certainly not expectedly on December 21st. As Gellé said, “My time to die had not yet come, thank God. I’m well. I’m just cold. But I’m sad because I don’t know if my friends are alive.”

Gellé and three police officers were traveling to the site of a shipwreck that resulted in 85 dead when their helicopter inexplicably crashed and fell into the Indian Ocean. Madagascar is a large island off the eastern coast of southern Africa, east of Mozambique.

Gellé was one of two survivors who had to swim 12 hours to shore after their helicopter crashed off the island’s northeastern coast. The men ejected themselves from the helicopter before swimming to shore, using the helicopter seats as flotation devices.

Gellé was discovered in the water by a fisherman in a canoe who brought him to shore. He explained to the media, “Not having a life jacket, I unfastened the seat and used it as a buoy. I stayed calm and took off anything heavy I was carrying like my boots and belt. I did everything to stay alive.”

Laitsara also reached land, albeit separately, in the seaside town of Mahambo. A search for the other two passengers, including pilot Colonel Hery Rakotomiliarison and Colonel Olivier Andrianambinina, did not result in a rescue. Colonel Rakotomiliarison was posthumously promoted to Commander of the National Malagasy Order as was Colonel Andrianambinina. Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina said, “The bravery and courage of [these men] are a source of inspiration for the entire nation.”

Police chief Zafisambatra Ravoavy told AFP that Gellé “always had great stamina in sport, and he’s kept up this rhythm as minister, just like a 30-year-old… he has nerves of steel.”

Gellé (shown above), Colonel Hery Rakotomiliarison, Colonel Olivier Andrianambinina, and survivor Andrianarison Jimmy Laitsara were part of the effort to assist in the sinking of the Francia, a small cargo ship that sank while illegally transporting 138 people about 20 km from the town of Soanierana Ivongo.

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Steven Munatones